BMW's 'Mission: Impossible' Marketing: Plenty of Racing, No Logo Close-Ups

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation - H 2015

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation - H 2015

BMW debuts its new 7 Series flagship in the Tom Cruise actioner.

In Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, a brace of BMW sedans, SUVs and motorcycles chase, crash and fly through the air at key moments throughout the $150 million movie.

It's the second time BMW has served as the franchise's exclusive automotive marketing partner — the German carmaker provided cars and technical support for Ghost Protocol, the previous installment in the series.

BMW's partnership with Mission: Impossible's filmmakers involves not only supplying the cars and technical support to modify them for stunt work, but a worldwide co-branded "Mission to Drive" marketing campaign including television, radio and digital spots. BMW was the exclusive sponsor of the film's premiere in Vienna last week.

As product placement of automobiles in films becomes ever more surgical, tentpole movie franchises like Mission: Impossible are partnering with carmakers in increasingly co-dependent marketing arrangements.

Audi has partnered with Marvel on the Avengers and Iron Man franchises, with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark character driving a succession of Audi R8 supercars; Lamborghini's Aventador and Murcielago models have served as Bruce Wayne's personal cars in the last three Batman releases. Aston Martin has long been associated with the James Bond movies — its DB5 was 007's famously tricked-out ride in classics like Goldfinger, and Daniel Craig drove a DB5 in 2006's Casino Royale.

For Spectre, the 24th film in the Bond series, opening in December, Aston Martin worked in partnership with the filmmakers to develop an entirely new car, the DB10, built exclusively for the movie — only 10 examples were manufactured. Spectre director Sam Mendes said that the DB10 was "the first castmember" in the film at the car's unveiling last December.

BMW debuted its i8 supercar in Ghost Protocol and used Rogue Nation to introduce its new 7 Series flagship. But the benefit of exclusive partnerships such as the BMW-Mission Impossible pairing extends beyond exposure for the car brand and the supply of cars to the movie, says LeeAnne Stables, president of worldwide marketing partnerships and licensing at Paramount Pictures, distributor of the Mission: Impossible films.

"We have a very simple agenda — we want to promote the movie in every way we can," Stables tells The Hollywood Reporter. "A car company's assets very well might put us in places where money can't buy exposure: in dealerships, social media channels, special events."

Stables brokered the partnerships between Paramount and Audi when the studio handled the Marvel franchise, and says that carmakers have since come to comprehend "the importance of associating with the pop culture moment, when these Marvel and Mission: Impossible and Transformer movies come out and you can find a creative way to ride the pony with a big movie."

BMW's association with the M:I franchise may have had tangible results beyond public awareness. In December 2011, with Ghost Protocol in wide release and No. 1 at the North American box office, BMW fended off Mercedes and for the first time became the best-selling luxury brand in the U.S.

In Rogue Nation, BMW's new 7 Series sedan is seen picking through the streets of Vienna. Tom Cruise pilots the M3 in a chase sequence during which the car is driven backwards at high speed and launches off a staircase. The footage is intercut into BMW's "Your Mission" television spots. 

Cruise, featured prominently in the ads, prefers to perform his own stunts — he was strapped to the fuselage of an Airbus A-400 taking off in the film's now-famous opening sequence — and was behind the wheel of the M3 and S 1000R motorcycle during a chase sequence with co-star Rebecca Ferguson, according to Rogue Nation stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood. (Cruise, an experienced racing driver, trained with Eastwood on tracks in the U.K. prior to filming.) BMW's support staff disabled the numerous stability and safety devices on the M3s driven by Cruise so the cars could perform four-wheel drifts and other stunts.

For all the BMWs seen racing — and crashing — throughout the movie (the operatives of the villainous Syndicate pointedly drive Land Rovers and other non-BMW iron) the movie shies away from gratuitous plugs. None of the characters utters the letters "BMW," nor are there lingering close-ups of the brand's famous hood-mounted propeller logo. And that was by design, Stables said.

"There's a tipping point at which the audience will accept [product] integration and still come out of the theater feeling positive about those brands — we're very sensitive to that and I know our brand partners are."